Research: Profanity in TV, Games Can Lead to Aggression

A new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests that profanity in the media such as television and video games can cause aggressive behavior in middle school students. Researchers at Brigham Young University gathered information from 223 middle school students in the Midwest to come to the conclusion that profanity can lead to aggressive behavior.

While the data collected is not longitudinal, BYU family life Professor Sarah Coyne says that the statistical techniques applied in the study gave researchers more clues than simple correlation tests. According to her, the statistical modeling used points to a chain reaction where exposure to profanity is associated with acceptance and use of profanity, which results in an influence to both "physical and relational aggression."

"On the whole, it's a moderate effect" said Coyne, the lead author of the Pediatrics study. "We even ran the statistical model the opposite way to test if the violent kids used more profanity and then sought it out in the media, but the first path we took was a much better statistical fit even when we tried other explanations."

Brad Bushman, an Ohio State University "media expert" (he was not involved in the study) agrees with the research (which he has reviewed).

"This research shows that profanity is not harmless," said Bushman, a mass communications professor. "Children exposed to profanity in the media think that such language is 'normal,' which may reduce their inhibitions about using profanity themselves. And children who use profanity are more likely to aggress against others. These are very important findings for parents, teachers, and pediatricians."

Coyne calls profanity "a stepping stone," where kids try profanity out for themselves, which leads to "a downward slide toward more aggressive behavior."

On the plus side, Coyne says the ratings systems for games and TV were "ahead of their time" by steering young people away from profanity without scientific research to state why. But Coyne says that she sees a new gap in the video game ratings system when it comes to educating parents about online games where players interact with each other.

Source: TG Daily

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